Causeway Coast & Glens Council have voted in favour of amending the Terms of Reference for the NI 100 Working Group to include the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, leaving Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Nicholl saying ‘he was a bit miffed’.
Members were given a legal opinion by the council’s solicitor, Mr David Hunter at December’s full council meeting after Councillor Nicoll questioned if the change was ‘procedurally right’.
The proposal to amend the Terms of Reference to include the development of potential events and activities which seek to mark the Platinum Jubilee extending the remit and timeframe of the group was brought forward at last month’s Leisure & Development meeting, leading the Benbradagh DEA councillor to question if the change was ‘procedurally right’.
Calling for a legal opinion at the time, Cllr Nicholl claimed these were ‘two separate working groups’, saying: “One is something to do with NI100 and the other the Jubilee for a Queen”.
Mr Hunter explained to the full council meeting: “I have had a look at this and I can find nothing in Standing Orders and there is certainly nothing in the 2014 Act.
“I have looked at Knowles, which is the standard text book on local authority meetings, and I can’t find anything which would prevent this proposal to amend or change the Terms of Reference for the NI 100 Working group to take in the subject of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
“Council has done this before. They have changed the Terms of Reference of working groups, the last one was the Project Board for Coleraine Leisure Centre.
“It started out as a Project Board simply for Coleraine Leisure Centre and it was in relation to Ballycastle Shared Campus it was considered to set up another Project Board or Working group for it but Council decided to amend the Terms of Reference to turn that into a Project Board to encompass all major sport and wellbeing projects within the Borough.
“I couldn’t find anything to say you can’t do this,” he concluded.
Responding to the council solicitor, Councillor Nicholl said: “I’m a bit miffed.
“To me this is not about changing the Terms of Reference, it’s about changing the whole process to bring something completely different in.
“You referenced Coleraine Leisure Centre, this is a completely separate thing, a totally different identity to what the Terms of Reference were for that NI 100 Working Group.
“There’s no costings for this, is it even procedurally right?” he added. “I know Members here will say I’m being political but I’m not.”
DUP Alderman John Finlay proposed that members ‘go with the solicitor’s advice’, before Councillor Aaron Callan said: “This was discussed at length on the night and the point was reiterated by the solicitor that there is nothing in Standing Orders to stop this and as you highlighted on the night Mayor, we have done it on several occasions in the past.
“We have followed the proper process, it has been debated and discussed at committee and now it’s at full council for decision. If Councillor Nicholl is not happy then he can vote against it.”
Independent Councillor Padraig McShane said he found it ‘astounding’, adding: “I’m listening to members taking on board legal advice and I find that absolutely astounding because they seem to pick and choose what legal advice they take.
“It is good to take legal advice from a man that is qualified but in this instance we accept legal advice and in so many instances we dismiss legal advice and leave ourselves open to charge.”
Members voted to accept the solicitor’s advice and the proposal to change the Terms of Reference carried with 21 votes for and 15 against.